Derrick Williams boasts plenty of upside for Timberwolves at No. 2
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Derrick Williams' knowledge of the state of Minnesota isn't extensive.
"I don't know too much about it," said Williams, who is a native of La Mirada, Calif. "I know there's a whole bunch of lakes. I like to fish, so in the offseason that can come in handy."
He may get acquainted with the state quickly come Thursday at the 2011 NBA Draft. Williams, a 20-year-old forward out of the University of Arizona, is widely projected to be the best available option for the Minnesota Timberwolves, owners of the No. 2 pick.
Williams boasts plenty of upside to make Wolves fans and scouts alike salivate. Standing at 6-foot-9 and 250 pounds, he has the size of an NBA power forward, but also the quickness to play on the wing. In two years at Arizona, an explosive ability to create off the dribble and shred through defenses helped him put up staggering numbers, averaging 19.5 points and 8.3 rebounds per game during his sophomore season. As an added bonus, his prowess from long-range - he shot 57 percent from 3-point territory last season- is enough to keep opponents on alert.
Williams was in Minneapolis for the first time last week to workout and meet with Wolves' front office personnel. Although his time with team was limited, he left a memorable impression.
"He's very talented and very skilled," assistant general manager Tony Ronzone said. "What impressed me was his hands. We did some live half-court one-on-ones, and man, he has big time hands. He shakes guys off and moves left and right well... He's someone we have to look at very strongly at (No. 2)."
Where Williams would fit on the Wolves' roster is an issue. Since the draft combine, he has steadfastly declared himself as a small forward. But the Wolves are already equipped at the position with Michael Beasley and Wesley Johnson, whom ironically have spent the offseason training with Williams. Beasley and Williams are highly comparable to each other as they harness similar physical and offensive attributes.
While the team could succeed with the trio intact, it would force all three players to take a hit in playing time. Moving Williams to power forward isn't an ideal option because it would push him into a backup role with All-Star Kevin Love already rooted at the position.
Although he's most comfortable at the three, Williams is determined to fit in wherever he's asked to.
"Either way it's going to be a mismatch," Williams said. "I just want to be an impact player. It's about making an improvement every single year and I think I can help whatever team it is do that."
Ronzone doesn't see the hybrid-forward tag as an issue.
"I think in this league right now we get too caught up on ones, twos, threes, fours and fives," Ronzone said. "You've got to put your five best basketball players out there."
The question remains: will the Wolves maintain their draft position at No. 2 and No. 20? Trade speculation has swirled in recent weeks as rumors have sprung up of numerous teams, including Milwaukee and Houston, expressing interest in obtaining the Wolves' second pick. If the right deal can be struck, selecting and then trading Williams would be a feasible option to allow the team to acquire an established veteran who can make an impact right away.
Many analysts see this year as a two-man draft, with Duke point guard Kyrie Irving and Williams going first and second, but Cleveland could make a surprising move by taking Williams with the top pick. With Spanish star Ricky Rubio on his way to Minnesota, the Wolves would be faced with the precarious decision of taking yet another point guard.
It shouldn't be forgotten there is the possibility the Wolves take a gamble on Turkish center Enes Kanter, who spent last year at the University of Kentucky. Ruled ineligible by the NCAA for receiving money as a pro internationally, Kanter hasn't played for a year. It hasn't stopped the imposing 6-foot-11, 260-pound big man from being heralded as a top-three selection. Kanter is a risky pick, but the Wolves are lacking in the competent big man department.
"The bottom line is where we are at you take the best player available," Ronzone said.
Williams maintains he is the top option among this year's prospect class, no matter how the draft shakes out on Thursday.
"That's what I'm trying to prove right now," Williams said. "I never back down. I'm always in for taking the challenge head on."